Cats

There are three species or subspecies of cat currently recognised in the Blessed Isles with talk of the repatriation of a fourth. Current knowledge suggests that the most widespread, the domestic cat (Felis [silvestris] catus) has not yet so naturalised to the Otherworld that the feral populations show signs of spirit forms. While this would ordinarily be cause for this article to ignore the feral domestic cat from here on, this raises two possibilities:

  1. This suggests that the known feral populations that have territories within the Otherworld (for who can stop a cat wandering where s/he wishes) have not been established long enough to naturalise to this extent but they could in the future.
  2. Domestic cats have been in the Blessed Isles for centuries if not millenia, therefore there should be some feral – or even domestic but outdoor – populations that have actually naturalised to this degree, which suggests that the possession of a spirit form may affect both intelligence and behaviour. If Otherworld-naturalised domestic cats exist, these cats have either learnt to hide their nature or hide themselves.

The second group of cats is the native wildcat subspecies (Felis silvestris silvestris). They are generally larger than domestic cats, although some breeds of domestic cat have been bred to be as large or larger. Their animal form has a grey, striped colouring which makes them difficult to spot in their natural environment while their spirit form is best described as a tabby version of the recent Puss in Boots animation, less the clothing. While sightings in either reality are rare with only three since systematic record keeping began, findings suggest that all or most of the population have spirit forms, making them the animal equivalent of Yew trees with at least one paw in each reality. While they are known to hybridise and offspring with similar colouring are almost indistinguishable, the wildcat remains shy rather than having its cousin’s almost arrogant self-confidence. Wildcats do not approach humans in either reality.

The third group of cats is the Kellas cat, a landrace based in Scotland and responsible for the myth of the fairy cat (Cat Sìth in Scottish Gaelic, Cat Sidhe in Irish Gaelic). They are typically large – “the size of a dog” – and black with a white spot or bib on their chest. As with their wildcat relatives, the spirit form merely appears to have the addition of opposable thumbs and the ability to walk on its hind legs. The most recent sighting was a specimen shot and killed by a gamekeeper in 1984. The victim was in the process of relieving the gamekeeper of a whole generation of game chicks while in spirit form. Folklore tends to make these creatures self-interested and tricksterish. Although rarely seen, the four Otherworld sightings in the records are of individual Kellas cats in spirit form trying to tempt individual Rangers away from their group.

The issue of the eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) had proven somewhat thorny. Records and testing of remains suggest that lynx were extent in the Blessed Isles until roughly the end of the Roman period. Some medieval literary fragments suggest that something approximating a lynx, and possible spirit forms, either survived in the folklore or were identified from individuals crossing over from the Otherworld. Academics make much of the non-Anglo-Saxon names for lynx (Lugh in the Gaelics, Llew in Welsh), which may indicate connections between the Otherworld and local interpretations of the Celtic deity Lugus. However, there are no populations of the lynx identified in the Otherworld by surveys or Expedition in over three hundred years. Reintroduced lynx from Scandinavia or the continent would take centuries to repatriate fully to both the Blessed Isles and the Otherworld.

Hearsay and modern folklore suggest that there are other large cats – generally feral released pets – roaming the Blessed Isles. Whether this is true or not, none have been identified in the Otherworld and they certainly have not established populations likely to have naturalised to the point of having spirit forms.

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